A Visit to the V.A. Hospital (4-28-10)

A short, ‘True’, story by Dave Brown

On one of my visits to the V.A. Hospital, in Madison, Wisc., I was admitted into a room that turned out to be a long arm quilting experience as well as a medical procedure.

The room was a standard two person and had minimal décor, just a few framed pictures on the wall. My picture was a bit unusual. It was a print of an old farmhouse done in a shades of gray technique with a colored point of interest to define a point. On the split rail fence extending to the foreground was a quilt, (the colorized item). Kind of interesting I thought.

As the day progressed, I overheard my roommate’s son speaking about his wife who had passed on about six months prior and his kids were in contact with him on his cell phone. He asked if it was O.K. to stand by the window by my bed as the reception was better and, “Hi, my name is Scott”. I said sure, and he was asking if they had found anyone to quilt the top they had made out of their mother’s clothes. Being the entrepreneur that I am, I had hung a business card on the picture, tucked under the top right corner of the frame by the glass. As he talked with his daughter, they apparently had no luck in finding a quilter who would do it. He was looking at the picture and told his daughter about the phone number on the card. I said, “Scott, that’s me”. He smiled and asked if I’d do it. I said, “Send it to me and we’ll get it taken care of”. He got tears in his eyes and said, “thanks”.

The V.A. has Pastors and Reverends who tend to the needs of patients and Reverend Hekel of the Social Work and Chaplain Service of the hospital was making his rounds. He was visiting my roommate first and had overheard the quilting conversation to some extent. When Scott went back over by his Dad, Rev. Hekel came to me and asked if there was any request I had and then asked, “Do you know anything about The Quilts of Valor? I said I did and he said he uses the quilts to give to patients that are in dire straits in the hospital. Many are older veterans from wars prior to the current Iraq War, World War 2, Korea, and my era-Vietnam. The program was devoted mostly to the Iraq Veteran’s, as I know it. I myself have done several for the cause and never thought of the V.A. and its older veterans. I said I’d check with my sweetie, my wife Jane, and get back to him. It turns out her Guild, The Katywaumpus Quilt Guild had four on hand, two of which I had even quilted. They had not been designated for any other collection point yet and the Guild president more than graciously offered them for me to take to Reverend Hekel.

I was released that day and Jane picked me up and we went to get the quilts. They included the patriotic flavor with one exception. A woman’s quilt with more colorful piecework, and a floral and feather design that I had quilted quite a while ago and forgotten I did it until I saw it again. All these quilts were pieced and not the standard print version of the patriotic quilts seen allot in this program.

Jane had to go to work and I went back up to the hospital with the quilts. I found Reverend Hekel and presented him with the quilts. I told him about the ladies who had made them and also about the one that was a woman’s patriotic quilt. He looked at me with astonishment and said, “You’ve answered my prayers”.

This is the first time in my life anyone has ever said that to me! He told me about a lady he had on the ward who was a World War 2 Veteran and as you know, the ladies who served never got much recognition. He and I looked at each other and a handshake turned into a hug of tears and joy! Then he took the quilt and headed out saying, “ya know, a lot of people tell you they’re going to help out and do something with good intensions, and it gets forgotten. Thanks for following through, I didn’t really expect to hear back from you.” I told him about the Guild and how I was glad to help! I left some web search info for him to approach other guilds in Wisconsin that may help and went home to recover.

A few days later we got an email from Rev. Hekel saying that the lady received the quilt with much joy and had said, “They do care.” When she passed on, the family who shared her last moments with her and her quilt, said that she wouldn’t let go of the quilt and told him they will honor and cherish and pass it on through the family as a memento of Great Grandma and her service to our country. Rev. Hekel then sent letters to the entire guild and the piecers of the quilts, which brought out many emotions and the feelings that you get when you’ve helped and know it was deeply appreciated. The remainder of the quilts were also given out with much of the same results, the patients admiring the work and care that went into making them. The familys’ reactions. Giving of yourself! Satisfaction in a job well done!

I know the Quilts of Valor program is always in need of more quilts for our younger veterans, but if you can spare a quilt or two, please contact your local Chaplain’s office at a V.A. Hospital near you. Or, Reverend Hekel’s email address is: Ulis.Hekel@med.va.gov, he can use all the quilts he can get!

Just a note: Jane’s Guild also received a letter from a Captain of a soldier. He was in tears writing the letter expressing how these quilts have encouraged and motivated the soldiers to get better, just knowing that the country does care for them! Even if you don’t get a letter like this personally, hopefully the Guilds that do hear back will let you know that you are doing an extremely important thing for our gals and guys in the service! From the bottom of my heart—THANK YOU!

I don’t know if anyone believes in Karma, but this stuff keeps happening to me??

Dave Brown,
N5764 County Road CD
Randolph, WI 53956